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Is Social TV Dead? Peel Says Yes

TMCnet Feature

May 16, 2014

Is Social TV Dead? Peel Says Yes

By Tara Seals
TMCnet Contributor

Peel has launched a redesign of its flagship Smart Remote app, which curates conversations around favorite TV shows on social media like Twitter (News - Alert). But just don’t call it a social TV app.

Smart Remote uses an algorithm that detects popular hashtags of TV shows on Twitter, but it can also search out one-off hashtags that people may have posted out of their own imagination related to programming. It also has integrated Twitter Card functionality, so that users can click on a tweet to tune into the show. With the upgrade, Twitter feeds also show up on the individual show pages inside the Peel app.

The refresh offers better TV content recommendations as well, separated into categories such as Tonight on TV, Weekend TV and Not to Be Missed, and it now has reminder features so that users can set up calendar notifications when a favorite show is about to air.

“Twitter conversation rarely centers around one hashtag,” Bala Krishnan, co-founder and chief product officer for Peel, told Lost Remote. “Trending hashtags and conversations can pop up at any time as events unfold so we wanted to make sure we pulled in all the relevant ones from the Twittersphere. Our team found the way to do all the work for you so all you have to do is read and react, in real time, right from the Peel app.”

According to Thiru Arunachalam, CEO and co-founder of Peel, the company has made a decision to focus on curating TV-related chatter on existing conversation platforms (Twitter, specifically) instead of creating a purpose-built app to sync up with content and provide ancillary information about the show.

Many apps, zeebox, look to work with media owners and pay-TV operators to create a walled garden environment where users could come to discuss shows, get more information, play games and win rewards, and even shop—all while providing a significant monetization opportunity to the partners. Usually these use automatic content recognition (ACR) to identify what’s on the television and present relevant content back to the user. One problem though: uptake has not met expectations.

A survey by Wowza Media Systems found that 40 percent of survey respondents reported that they have used a TV show’s branded second-screen app at some point. But 82 percent of survey respondents reported that they use Twitter, Facebook (News - Alert) or other social media while watching a show. And half (51 percent) said that they have used social media specifically to connect to other people watching the same show.

And, in a Council for Research Excellence (CRE) study, one of every six times a viewer is watching primetime TV, that viewer also is using social media. About half of social media activity while users are watching TV relates to the TV programming. As far as Peel is concerned, the writing is on the wall. “Twitter has won the battle, and social TV companies are either dead or dying,” Arunachalam told Lost Remote. “We are a smart remote technology.”

He also explained to VentureBeat that "I'm a firm believer that the social TV market never existed or at the very least that it's dead." He added, "I believe Twitter is the only true social TV [network] - or maybe Facebook as well."

The updated version of the Smart Remote app is now available on most Samsung (News - Alert) smartphones—and will be available for other devices in coming weeks. The just-released Samsung Galaxy S5 is preloaded with the app, and the company said that two million Samsung Galaxy S5 users have already activated the Peel Smart Remote app on their mobile devices.

According to Peel, the company has more than 60 million activated users in 200 countries and is currently handling three billion monthly remote commands.

Peel, founded in 2009, is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif. and has raised $42 million in funding from investors Translink Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and others.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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